With a name like “I Want To Eat Your Pancreas,” one might not know what to expect. The name might make somebody think of a zombie comedy, or a cannibal documentary, but what we get is a heart-wrenching anime movie. The film is an emotional character piece that looks at mortality and the importance of caring for other people, presented with beautiful animation.
“I Want To Eat Your Pancreas” is directed by Shinichiro Ushijima and based on the novel by Yoru Sumino. The English dub, which Fathom Events is bringing to theaters, stars Robbie Daymond as the unnamed protagonist and Erika Harlacher as Sakura. Erica Mendez directs the English dub and composed the English adaptation.
From the moment the film opens, we know it’s going to be a tearjerker. That’s not a spoiler, since it literally opens with a rainy day funeral for one of the characters. One of the first things the audience learns is that Sakura has a pancreatic disease, and her time is short. This isn’t the first movie to focus on a character’s friendship with a terminally ill girl, nor will it likely be the last, but what matters most is the journey the characters undertake.
The protagonist, whose name we don’t get for the better part of the movie, is a detached, introverted, loner character. Sakura, on the other hand, is extroverted, energetic, and cheerful, even when talking about her impending mortality. The film takes us on a journey with the two, both through their last summer together and through their emotional character arcs.
Erika Harlacher puts a lot of energy into her lines, including little giggles as she speaks that add an endearing quality to her. Meanwhile, Robbie Daymond delivers his character’s dialogue with a world-weary sigh at first – bored but never monotone – but subtly builds the emotive range as the film goes on and his character grows more attached to Sakura.
While it would be easy to view it as another “extroverted girl character brings introverted guy character out of his shell” movie, it’s less about becoming social and more about letting other people in and caring for them.
Story-wise, though, it hits most of the beats one would expect from an emotionally-driven, boy-meets-dying-girl, coming-of-age story. It even has the anime cliche of “Oh no, he hotel put us – an unrelated boy and girl – in the same room,” but it still uses those moments to build the characters and their friendship. Even in the moment where Sakura is in the shower the scene doesn’t linger on her; it avoids the obvious fanservice to focus on the characters and emotional beats.
With that said, not everything is entirely predictable. We know where the story ends, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some twists and turns on the way there. It’s most certainly an emotionally powerful story – you have to expect that going in and prepare for the inevitable heartbreak. The movie takes you on a journey with the characters to make it all the more poignant and powerful, so the audience feels their loss as well. (Again, death is not a spoiler for this film.)
Visually, this is a beautiful film. The animation is smooth and fluid, while the artwork is bright and crisp. Every scene is drawn with care and affection, adding life and details to the city streets or the inside of the classroom. When the characters move, they move as a whole person, rather than just animating whatever part of them is the focus, and it adds a layer of life to them we just don’t get in anime on TV.
Don’t expect an anime about dealing with mortality to be dark and dreary. The bright imagery matches Sakura’s personality nicely and contrasts with the impending specter of death.
The symbolism isn’t too subtle, nor is it entirely blatant. The uses of cherry blossoms suits the film, both due to Sakura’s name (“Sakura” is Japanese for “cherry blossom”) and for the fleeting beauty that is the life of a cherry blossom. It’s not overused, but it occurs just enough for viewers to notice.
When you go into a movie like “I Want To Eat Your Pancreas,” you have to expect an emotional roller coaster and sucker punch. But the journey is one that is paced well, provides great character moments and arcs, and is simply beautiful visually. As long as you’re ready for an anime movie to make you cry, you should go watch “I Want To Eat Your Pancreas.”
You can see “I Want To Eat Your Pancreas” in theaters nationwide February 7 and 10. Learn more and get your tickets from Fathom Events for showings at a theater near you here: https://www.fathomevents.com/events/i-want-to-eat-your-pancreas